Researchers are reassessing the potential for place-based resources (including rivers, agriculture, and rock formations) to generate economic activity as eastern Kentucky’s coal and manufacturing-based economy continues to shrink. Our study makes the case for rock climbing in the Red River Gorge in eastern Kentucky as a viable and sustainable source of economic activity in six of the poorest counties in the nation. Rock climbers who come to the Red River Gorge have been found to contribute several million dollars to local businesses annually, supporting an increase in jobs and wages in the area. Our study finds that climbers tend to be well educated professionals whose economic desires include visiting locally owned restaurants and attending regional festivals.

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